At this point, you should have a pretty solid base knowledge of SpiderMan. He was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, orphaned at a young age, raised by his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben, bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him superpowers, and used his considerable intellect to build gadgets to go along with his new powers. After first using his new powers for his own popularity and financial gains, the murder of his Uncle Ben by a criminal he could have stopped causes him to realize that “with great power comes great responsibility”, which becomes his center – and the reason he’s easily one of the most relatable superheroes out there. Peter is a quiet, shy, nerdy ‘wallflower’ who has to deal with the struggles of day to day existence, but SpiderMan allows him to help those he can. He’s had several different incarnations on TV and in movies – and while Sam Raimi’s first movie nailed the origin story, my favorite incarnation is still the animated series from the 90s, which paired with the XMen animated 90s series.
After the third in the first series ruined one of the best villains (here I of course mean Venom, no one cares about Sandman) and one reboot too many (look, we all like Andrew Garfield, but so much of those two movies was wrong), Sony decided to make a deal with Marvel, and allow a new Peter Parker to join the MCU. I was hoping for Miles Morales – but – Once I saw Captain America Civil War, Tom Holland completely won me over. And the eyes on the outfit moved! Amazing!
Even after that debut, I wasn’t sure we needed another SpiderMan movie so quickly, but I have to say, again, I was won over, and this is easily one of (if not the) best SpiderMan movies.
The movie picks up just after the events of Captain America Civil War, Peter has returned home to high school, eagerly awaiting more work from Tony Stark and the Avengers. He spends his time at school during the day, telling all his classmates he has an internship with Tony Stark that is preventing him from attending too many after curricular activities. He then spends the afternoons and evenings chasing bad guys around and generally being a ‘friendly, neighborhood, Spiderman’.
Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes, a construction company owner had a huge city contract to clean up after the ‘incident’ in New York, you remember, when the Avengers battled the Chitari army? Well, a shady new government/Tony Stark organization called Damage Control steps in to take over the contract. Furious, Toomes resorts to stealing bits of tech and teaming up with some of his crew to make and sell new and elaborate weapons to make ends meet.
One of his evenings out, SpiderMan encounters criminals using these weapons. He attempts to warn Stark through Happy Hogan, but that doesn’t seem to go very well. During a party at a classmate’s house, he ends up trailing and tagging some of the criminals as they were about to make a deal – this puts SpiderMan on the radar of Toomes who has used some of the found tech to build himself Vulture-like wings and claws that aid him in his thefts.
Following his tag, while also on a school Academic Decathlon trip to Washington D.C., Peter finds that the crew is stealing the tech from Damage Control, and ends up learning there will be another deal made back in New York on the Staten Island Ferry. He shows up to stop the deal, ends up interrupting what was going to be a big sting and almost loses the ferry and everyone on it in the firefight. However, Iron Man shows up to save his butt, and chastise him for not listening when told to stand down earlier. Peter tells him he just wants to help and knows he is capable of more, but Stark is convinced Peter is not yet ready - and takes back his fancy suit. This leaves Peter to decide whether or not to pursue one final showdown with the Vulture, without his fancy Stark Industries suit. Spoiler Alert – he does.
The movie is fast-paced and fun, which is important for a flick that’s over two hours. The action is wonderful, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated not going through the origin story yet again – we are all aware of the radioactive spider bite – we don’t need to see it one more time (looking at you, every Batman movie). I also appreciate the effort made to tell a localized story – often with stand-alone Marvel movies, the question is often why the lead hero wouldn’t simply call the other Avengers. Here, SpiderMan operating alone makes perfect sense. Director Jon Watts was clear that this was going to be a more high-school Spiderman than any other, and that he was looking to John Hughes movies for inspiration, and what a great choice. The cast around Holland is just as fantastic as he is and manage to steal several scenes.
- Tom Holland is a wonderful Peter Parker, and at 19 when they started shooting, is the most age appropriate Peter Parker to date. The others have all been closer to 30 attempting to play a teenager. Holland has a background in dance and gymnastics, and makes the movements and action believable. He’s also a great actor, and really makes you feel his conflicting excitement and nervousness. I can’t wait to see both his appearance in the Infinity Gauntlet movie, and his next Spiderman outing.
- Michael Keaton is absolutely fantastic as the Vulture. Now, I was for sure not in favor of using the Vulture as the villain, but what a great way to update him. And Keaton, just amazing – so sinister, but for so many of the right reasons. He is just incredible and I am so happy he was in this movie.
- Robert Downey Jr. continues to blur the lines between RDJ and Stark and really does a good job being concerned about, disappointed in, and then proud of his protégé. He’s wonderful in this – and quite honestly, if we never get another stand-alone Iron Man movie, but he keeps popping in from time to time like this – I’d be happy. Speaking of which - Jon Favreau brings back his continuously irritated Happy Hogan, and I loved his bits in this.
- Marisa Tomei plays the youngest version of Aunt May to date, and she’s pretty charming and fun, and much more sassy that I’m used to Aunt May being.
- Zendaya plays Michelle, a classmate of Peter’s who truly doesn’t care about what’s going on with everyone around her, and I really loved her character so much more than I expected to. Indifferent and hilarious, I am really intrigued to see where she goes next (please dye her hair red).
- Donald Glover, who campaigned to play SpiderMan back when Garfield was cast, gets rewarded for his campaign with a small role in this movie. He plays criminal Aaron Davis (who is known as the Prowler in the comics, and is the uncle to Miles Morales). His character helps SpiderMan learn where he needs to go next, and that he needs to work on his interrogation skills, and mentions his nephew lives in the area – which means at some point, Miles will show up!
- Jacob Batalon plays Ned, Peter’s “Guy in the Chair”, what an excellent job this kid does. He’s so entertaining and so genuine. He’s got Peter’s back before and after learning his secret, doing what he can to assist SpiderMan whenever possible.
- Laura Harrier plays Liz, Peter’s crush in this movie. She’s smart and pretty, and also willing to give Peter a chance or two, which of course he blows because of his SpiderMan-ing. That’s how that usually goes for Peter.
- Tony Revolori plays this version of Flash Thompson, and since they are now at a high school for math/science/engineering – he’s smarter this time around, but still the same old bully. I loved this version, and thought Revolori was perfect.
- Abraham Attah plays Abe, another student on the Academic Decathlon team who is there to keep Flash in place, he also stole the few scenes he was in.
- Bokeem Woodbine plays a version of the Shocker, and again, would not have picked the Shocker as one of the many SpiderMan villains that should come to screen, but they did such a good job of giving him just a little to do that I ended up entirely on board. Plus, seeing Woodbine again made me want to rewatch the Big Hit.
- Tyne Daly shows up as the head of Damage Control in a role I would call very Amanda Waller-y. I look forward to her role being a through-string in more MCU pieces. I am intrigued to see what else she does, as she seems to have a lot of alien tech at her disposal. I feel like bringing her into one of the New York based Marvel Netflix shows would be really interesting.
- Hannibal Buress plays the gym teacher at the school, and Martin Starr plays the Academic Decathlon coach and both of them were incredibly hilarious in their small roles.
I loved this movie, I really did. I wasn’t expecting to, and I think that’s why it snuck up on me. Stay all the way through the credits (duh.) for an especially self-aware hilarious post-credit sequence. I can’t wait to see more SpiderMan movies with this new crew. SpiderMan has such a wide range of villains, you can go a long way without retreading what has already been done (please no more Green Goblins!!).
9 out of 10 – near flawless. It is a little long, even though it didn’t feel like it.
Bonus – cast interviews!